Wednesday, January 27, 2010
D.A. Carson on NT Theology
It's been nearly 15 years since D.A. Carson published his article, "‘Contemporary Issues in Biblical Theology: A New Testament Perspective, BBR 5 (1995): 17-41, which is one of the best intro's to biblical and NT theology around. In a recent review of Udo Schnelle's Theology of the New Testament, Carson concludes his assessment of the work with these remarks:
Any NTT, let alone a NTT that will allow itself, whether on canonical or other grounds, to be part of a broader biblical theology, would be greatly enriched by close exegetical examination of how the different corpora of the NT cite and allude to the OT. The NT writers variously insist that Jesus’ body is the temple of God, that he is the lamb of God, the good shepherd, the true vine, the passover sacrificed for us, that he is the ultimate David, the ultimate (Melchizedekian) priest, that the church is the royal priesthood, that Jesus in some way recapitulates Israel’s history, that the exodus is in some ways paradigmatic, and so on and so on. What were their warrants for making these connections? Of course, one might side with Barnabas Lindars and conclude that this is nothing but irresponsible proof-texting that cannot and should not be replicated in Christian exegesis of the OT today. Yet I have come to the conclusion that many of the warrants taught or presupposed in the pages of the NT are subtle, careful, thoughtful, and in some cases distinguishable from Jewish appropriation techniques (e.g., the middoth of Hillel). One must ask what hermeneutical changes took place in Paul’s mind between the time he went to Damascus and when he returned—not just what theological conclusions changed in his mind (for they are largely obvious), but what hermeneutical approaches shifted in his thinking that enabled him to warrant, in his own biblical exegesis, his newfound Christian convictions, while he appealed to the same (OT) biblical texts he had appealed to before his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road. For instance, while the pre-conversion Paul would have elevated the Torah to the point of hermeneutical control in his reading of Tanakh, the Christian Paul displays deep interest in what might be called the salvation-historical sequence of events in the Old Testament (see, for instance, his arguments in Rom 4 and Gal 3). That salvation-historical interest is duplicated in Hebrews (Heb 3:7-4:13; 7:1-25) and elsewhere. New Testament writers point out in the strongest terms that these distinctions are there in the OT text. They do not think they are imposing extraneous or anachronistic material onto the text. Out of such observation and reflection springs the possibility of “eine ganz biblische Theologie [‘a truly biblical theology,’ ‘a whole-Bible biblical theology’].” Professor Schnelle’s inability to find Jesus in the OT was not shared by the NT writers whose theology he is trying to write up. Unpacking that line of thought is, of course, beyond the scope of these few reflections. And in any case it is far better to end by expressing my thanks to Professor Schnelle for his extraordinary achievement.